There was well-earned respite today for the post-surgery carer of Monsieur Strachan senior. A day out in Harrogate the much-needed break for my mum, accompanied by my wee missus. Reward for her challenging few months, including dealing my papa’s irrational new insistence he is addressed as though he’s a Frenchman!
Even when the individual is low maintenance, residing in a household with a seriously ill family member is challenging. If, like my pater, your behavioural traits have shifted from an undemonstrative, unassuming character to a cantankerous, ungrateful and impolite fella, the carer’s strain level lifts a notch or two.
Let me be clear, the fact my old man’s behaviour has incorporated a darker element is completely understandable. His lack of mobility, disruption to his deeply ingrained day-to-day routines and the fact my mum grills his pork chops for two minutes longer than he prefers, highly agitate pater.
That being said, though, despite having every sympathy with the disenchanted Yorkshireman, I also empathise with the equally strained Yorkshire woman who on a daily basis has to deal with the consequences of his discontent.
So today, in a well earned break, Maggie sauntered around the north Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate with my wife Karen, lunching and sampling an existence unfettered by normal groundhog day routines. In the interim, the carer duties shifting temporarily to yours truly for a few hours.
To be honest, my watch was fairly drama free My dad’s recent high maintenance behaviour conspicuous by it’s absence; a likely consequence of him being distracted from his OCD by the cricket Test Match on TV.
Akin to a parent wishing to occupy their toddler with a Postman Pat DVD to negate chore interruptions, I plumped my dad in front of the England v West Indies international at Lords, whilst I undertook some garden maintenance.
Apart from Mally getting a bit hyper on Haribos and me threatening not to take him to Flamingoland if he didn’t eat his lunch, any further similarities to parent/toddler interaction ended there.
It’s tough to see my dad’s current mental state and restricted mobility. As much as the family dislike the situation, we accept that as an 81 year old illnesses will be unwanted visitor(s) at his door.
That being said, I find it distressing to witness how ill-health is affecting this proud man to whom I owe so much……. Even if. in my childhood. he did once threaten not to take me to Flamingoland for leaving my lunch, along with failing to stopping mum making my brother and I wear balaclavas in the 1970’s.
Still unrepentant for her balaclava misdemeanours of yore, mum returned from Harrogate with a new coat, shoes, an idiosyncratic Dalek shoehorn that exclaims “Exterminate!” as it levers on your footwear, along with a Bob the Builder CD. The latter apparently purchased to occupy the old man when Maggie does her cleaning.
Looking at the fruits of her retail therapy, it was clear her birthday gift benefactor’s had been magnanimous with their birthday money/vouchers.
Regardless of this munificence, though, I’d venture that her most appreciated gift would have been the few hours respite from her job as unpaid carer to her poorly husband; her much-loved consort of 57 years.